Transgender Debate: Is Conversion Therapy Actually Child Abuse?

January 21, 2015 Abuse and Neglect Attorney

Leelah Alcorn, a transgender teen, recently committed suicide. In a note shared on the internet, Alcorn was angry that her parents rejected her for religious reasons. She was also angry at them for forcing her into conversion therapy to “cure” her.

Individuals who identify as transsexual or transgender have typical body parts but feel like they were born as the wrong gender. In turn, some seek sex changes.

Recently, Jody Herman, the Willliams Scholar of Public Policy at the University of California Los Angeles School of Law, looked at research related to conversion therapy.

Herman stated that the largest and most current survey of transgender adults showed that lifetime suicide attempts was 41%. Although the reasons for suicide are complex, some factors stand out. One recent study indicated that transgender people who endure negative experiences like discrimination, rejection by family, and violence, have higher instances of reporting suicide attempts.

In addition, related research indicates that seeking mental or medical help does not reduce the chances of a suicide attempt. And it might also come as a surprise that those people who received religious counseling were more likely to try to kill themselves than those not receiving any help at all.

Herman stated researchers have found that social support, being accepted by family, and belonging to the transgender community all help to reduce mental stress and suicide attempts.

Cristan Williams, the Executive Director of the Transgender Foundation of America, says conversion therapy is banned by some states. It is denounced by the American Psychiatric Association and other groups because research shows that the therapy consistently creates suicidal and depressed teenagers.

Williams said that Jessica Herthel, a co-author of a book for affected kids, told her that she often shares with parents struggling with these children to “love the kid you were given, not the kid you thought you were going to get.”

Most parents have the best of intentions in trying to help their children. However, the research seems to indicate that telling a child a sexual identity is wrong is mentally harmful and a form of emotional abuse. The debate on this controversial issue continues.